FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The New War on "Terror"

by WILL POTTER

The Bush administration sent a calculated message to grassroots political activists this week: The War on Terrorism has come home.

FBI agents rounded up seven American political activists from across the country Wednesday morning, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey held a press conference trumpeting that “terrorists” have been indicted.

That’s right: “Terrorists.” The activists have been charged with violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 1992, which at the time garnered little public attention except from the corporations who lobbied for it. Their crime, according to the indictment, is “conspiring” to shut down Huntingdon Life Sciences, a company that tests products on animals and has been exposed multiple times for violating animal welfare laws.

The terrorism charges could mean a maximum of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The activists also face additional charges of interstate stalking and three counts of conspiracy to engage in interstate stalking: Each count could mean up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Since September 11, the T-word has been tossed around by law enforcement and politicians with more and more ease. Grassroots environmental and animal activists, and even national organizations like Greenpeace, have been called “eco-terrorists” by the corporations and politicians they oppose. The arrests on Wednesday, though, mark the official opening of a new domestic front in the War on Terrorism.

Bush’s War on Terrorism is no longer limited to Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden. It’s not limited to Afghanistan or Iraq (or Syria, or Iran, or whichever country is next). And it’s not limited to the animal rights movement, or even the campaign against Huntington Life Sciences. The rounding up of activists on Wednesday should set off alarms heard by every social movement in the United States: This “war” is about protecting corporate and political interests under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The activists arrested are part of a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, an international organization aimed solely at closing the controversial lab. The group uses home demonstrations, phone and email blockades, and plenty of smart-ass, aggressive rhetoric to pressure companies to cut ties with the lab. It has worked. The lab has been brought near bankruptcy, after international corporations like Marsh Inc. have pulled out their investments.

To most, this is effective– albeit controversial– organizing. According to the indictment, though, it’s “terrorism” because the activists aim to cause “physical disruption to the functioning of HLS, an animal enterprise, and intentionally damage and cause the loss of property used by HLS.”

That’s like saying the Montgomery bus boycott, a catalyst of the civil rights movement, was terrorism because it aimed to “intentionally damage and cause the loss of property” of the bus company.

It seems the biggest act of “terrorism” by the group is a website. Members of the group are outspoken supporters of illegal direct action like civil disobedience, rescuing animals from labs, and vandalism. Whenever actions-legal or not-take place against the lab, the group puts it on the website. The activists are not accused of taking part in any of these crimes.

Such news postings are so threatening, apparently, that the indictment doesn’t even name the corporations that have been targeted. They are only identified by single letters, like “S. Inc.” or “M. Corp.”

“Because of the nature of the campaign against these companies, we didn’t want to subject them further to the tactics of SHAC,” said Michael Drewniak, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New jersey, in an interview.

Some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office must protect them from a bunch of protesters. This is what the War on Terrorism has become: The Bush administration can’t find real terrorists abroad, yet it spends law enforcement time and resources protecting corporations from political activists.

The lawsuit is so outlandish that some activists, who asked that they not be identified, said they don’t think it is intended to win. Instead, they see it as an important political move in the War on Terror. In a hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee just last week, a U.S. Attorney said the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act needed to go further to successfully be used against Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. If this lawsuit fails, the Justice Department can say, “We told you so.”

So, these activists face a double-edged sword. If they lose, they go to prison, and are labeled “terrorists” for the rest of their lives. If they win, it could be fodder for an even harsher political crackdown.

Their only chance is for activists of all social movements– regardless of their political views– to support them, and oppose the assault on basic civil liberties. Otherwise, in Bush’s America, we could all be terrorists.

WILL POTTER is a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Chronicle of Higher Education, and close followed the emergence of “domestic terrorism.” He can be reached at: william.potter@alumni.utexas.net

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail